People Before Profit are firmly behind nurses and health workers in the North who went out on strike yesterday for the first time in the history of the Royal College of Nursing. The workers are demanding safe staffing levels and an end to pay discrimination which sees health workers in the North earn less than other NHS workers.

The root causes of this strike are very similar to those of the nurses’ strike in the 26 counties earlier this year. Low levels of recruitment and retention of staff have crippled the health service in the North, where there are now 2,800 vacant posts. Patients are now left waiting up to 2 years for important operations. Others are often left on trolleys in Accident & Emergency Departments wards for extended periods.

The disparity in pay between health workers in the North and other NHS workers is a key issue. Newly qualified band five nurses in the North earn £22,795 a year, compared with £24,214 in England and Wales and £24,670 in Scotland.

Both the DUP and Sinn Féin have done nothing to support pay parity. Stormont has consistently let down workers and the establishment parties have been incapable of mounting any challenge to Tory cuts and attacks on workers. With the establishment parties now in talks to restore the Assembly, the issue of increased funding for the health service and pay parity for workers in the North needs to be a red line issue in any agreement.

People Before Profit are in full support of the nurses and health workers. These workers are the backbone of the health service and their hard work deserves to be recognised and rewarded.

Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin is the People Before Profit candidate for the Dundrum ward in Dublin Rathdown. He is a musician, a Psychology graduate and a native Irish speaker. Eoghan is part of a newly politicising generation of young activists who are no longer willing to accept a political system that allows thousands of people to remain homeless, that leaves tens of thousands of people on hospital waiting lists, that leaves asylum seekers languishing in the glorified prisons that are the Direct Provision system, and that is doing nothing to stop an existential threat to the human species due to climate change. The water charges and repeal movements have shown over the last few years that people power can win positive changes, and Eoghan believes we can draw inspiration from these victories in other struggles. As a Psychology graduate, Eoghan has a major interest in mental health, and is particularly concerned with a system that is a breeding ground for mental distress. With people now being forced to work longer hours, experiencing mortgage distress, paying exorbitant rents, childcare and other costs, and with almost 800,000 people living in poverty, it is little wonder that we are experiencing a mental health crisis. While the increased awareness of mental health issues in recent years is welcome, it has not come with any significant action on the part of the government to improve the situation. Eoghan believes the fight for improved mental health is two-faceted: We need to fight for better services, but we must also fight for a better society that provides people with their needs and allows them to flourish, explore their own creativity, and enjoy their lives. Eoghan has been heavily involved in campaigns for housing, repeal of the 8th amendment, ending direct provision and many other issues over the last few years. He believes that real change can only come through grass roots campaigns from below and if elected, he will use his position as a platform for progressive ideas and to further build these campaigns.

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